Bomb attack on Egyptian pipeline disrupts gas supply to Israel and Jordan

Attackers armed with assault rifles placed explosives that triggered a blaze which took firefighters at least seven hours to extinguish, in third attack on pipeline since Mubarak's regime was toppled in February.

Flames rise from a gas pipeline in the Bir al Abd area, 80 kilometres from the northern Sinai town of El Arish, after it was bombed by saboteurs, cutting supplies to Israel and Jordan, early yesterday. AFP PHOTO/STR
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EL ARISH // Masked assailants blew up the Egyptian pipeline that carries gas to Israel and Jordan early yesterday, starting a fire that burned for hours and disrupting the flow of the gas, security officials said.

The blast was the third to hit the strategic pipeline since Hosni Mubarak's regime was toppled in February.

No one claimed responsibility for the explosion, but disgruntled Bedouin tribesmen in the area have been blamed for attacking the pipeline in the past. Islamists opposed to Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel have also been suspected.

Yesterday's blast targeted a pumping station at a location about 100 kilometres south of the Mediterranean city of El Arish in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula and about 50km west of Israel's border.

The security officials said the attackers, armed with assault rifles, arrived in two pickup trucks without number plates and forced the three security guards on duty to leave before placing the explosives and shooting the pipeline's valves to release the gas.

The explosion triggered a blaze that took firefighters at least seven hours to extinguish, they said.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the media, said there were no casualties.

In Jordan, energy ministry officials said they have been in contact with their Egyptian counterparts to assess the damage and the time needed to repair the pipeline.

Gas supplies to Jordan through the pipeline were expected to double yesterday from 50 million cubic feet daily to 100 million cubic feet, according to the official Petra news agency.

In Israel, foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Israel "trusts Egyptian authorities to investigate what happened and to ensure such things do not happen again in the future".

On April 27, the pipeline in Al Sabil area of north Sinai was also attacked, which cut off international gas supply.

In February, attackers used explosives against the pipeline in the town of Lihfren in north Sinai, near the Gaza Strip.

There had also been a failed attempt to attack the pipeline in March. Egypt also supplies about 40 per cent of Israel's natural gas that the country uses to produce electricity. In December, four Israeli firms signed 20-year contracts worth up to US$10 billion (Dh36bn) to import Egyptian gas.

* Associated Press with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse